Exploring Mobile Backhaul Opportunities
Consumer hunger for media-rich mobile communications is driving wireless operators to increase bandwidth at their cell sites to accommodate the dynamic growth of data, video and voice traffic generated by bandwidth-hungry applications. As a result, cell tower backhaul represents an enormous business opportunity for cable operators. According to the latest report from Infonetics Research, the mobile backhaul market generated more than $8 billion in revenues in 2012, up from less than $5 billion just a few years prior.
Demand for backhaul capacity has been fueled by the surge in mobile data traffic caused by bandwidth-intensive devices such as smartphones and tablets when using mobile Web applications, including social media, online gaming and video. In addition, the deployments of 4G and LTE wireless networks promise users the fastest data speeds available, also propelling the backhaul capacity demand. There is no doubt that the demand for backhaul capacity from wireless network towers will continue to rapidly grow. This has created a burgeoning market for cable operators.
The residential concentration of today's fiber-rich cable networks can accommodate exploding bandwidth needs. However, to leverage this existing infrastructure, it is critical to have scalable, reliable, cost-effective equipment that's engineered to meet the stringent performance needs of today's wireless carriers. Cable operators are primed to provide a fiber-efficient solution that deploys seamlessly over today's existing HFC networks. With a significant synergy between their residential service areas and the location of cell towers, cable operators typically have fiber networks in close proximity to cell towers. This means major advantages for time-to-market and cost-to-deploy.
Both advantages are driven by cable operators’ ability to reuse the fiber in their existing residential HFC networks. This minimizes the amount of new fiber which needs to be laid, limiting it to the connection from the cell tower to the HFC plant, as opposed to all the way back to the headend. Construction to lay new fiber is always the most time-intensive and costly part of any deployment. This overlay approach is made possible through the recent introduction of passive components that enable cell tower traffic, on dedicated wavelengths, to be optimally carried on the same fiber as the residential services. With support for dense wavelength division multiplexing (DWDM), many cell towers can be fed from the same fiber, resulting in a very efficient solution.
In summary, cable operators have the means to address the growing needs of the cell tower backhaul market. With an integrated fiber solution, they can easily leverage existing network resources, which is the most cost-effective option that meets all requirements for wireless backhaul support. This capability puts them in the ideal situation to compete aggressively with other companies serving the cell tower backhaul market.